“A gem of a memoir . . . Holland takes us for a ride through the psych ER that is at once wild and poignant, a ride that leaves deep tracks in even the healthiest of minds.”—Katrina Firlik, M.D., author of Another Day in the Frontal Lobe
“An extraordinary insider’s look at the typical days and nights of that most extraordinary place, written with a rare combination of toughness, tenderness, and outrageous humor.”—Andrew Weil, M.D.
“Unforgettable . . . tells a mean story.”—New York Daily News
“The tension between [Holland’s] macho swagger and her shame at the harsh way she occasionally treats patients gives this memoir extra intrigue.”—Psychology Today
“A fascinating portrait . . . Holland is a good storyteller with a dark wit.”—New York Post
“Equal parts affecting, jaw-dropping, and engrossing.”—Booklist
“In Weekends at Bellevue [Julie Holland] tells the story of her own journey through medical school, residency, and beyond, and at the same time gives us startling insights into minds so damaged, human beings rendered so helpless by their own demons, that entities resembling souls can’t help but shine through. It’s a thrilling and meaningful trip. As I turned the pages I found myself thinking, over and over, Oh, poor novelist that you are, you really can’t make this stuff up.” —Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours and Specimen Days
One wonders how Julie Holland did it. For nine years, she worked the infamous weekend night shift at New York's Bellevue Hospital, not only the oldest public health institution in the country but also its famously busy psychiatric facility. Every night, dozens of patients were brought in: "slashers," "jumpers," "overdosers," suicidal bag ladies, people running naked on the street. The staff must quickly evaluate them, cope with their problems as best they can, and send them back into the margins of society. Dr. Holland's Weekends at Bellevue re-creates a place where even TV writers would not dare to go.
In this disjointed memoir, Holland describes her nine-year odyssey as a doctor on the night shift at New York City's Bellevue hospital, a name that has become synonymous with insanity. Holland met a bewildering assortment of drunks, sociopaths, schizophrenics and homeless people malingering in hope of a warm place to crash. As the physician in charge of the psychiatric emergency room, the hard-boiled Holland acted as gatekeeper, deciding who would be sent upstairs to the psych ward, to Central Booking or back to the streets. The book also covers Holland's personal life from her student days as a wannabe rock star to her psychotherapy sessions, her sexual escapades and her marriage and birth of her children. Holland captures the rhythms and routines of the E.R. with its unbearable suffering, petty jealousies and gallows humor. She is less successful at maintaining any kind of narrative continuity. Chapters generally run only a couple of pages and often depict random anecdotes that most likely sound better than they read. (Oct.)
Psychiatrist Holland recounts nine years working the weekend shift in the emergency room of one of the nation's iconic psychiatric hospitals. When she started her job at the Bellevue psych ER, 30-year-old Holland (editor: Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, 2001) was single, intelligent and tough. Prisoners in chains, battered women, the homeless, desperate and delusional-all became an exercise in how quickly a patient could be treated and released. Readers meet an endless procession of these broken souls, some more sympathetic than others, and get a sense of the difficulty of the author's job. Holland describes how the staff competed to identify which patients were feigning symptoms to score a warm bed and hot meal, until the author, shaken after a scary incident, realized that "even the lying patients are still coming to the hospital because they are in need. Don't send them away empty-handed." Unfortunately, few of the patients' stories are particularly memorable, and Holland misses countless opportunities to make them so. Because she is so focused on her journey from tough girl to "working mother of two with a heart of mush," the take-home message from each of these vignettes, when there is one, almost always relates only to the narrator-who, despite this, does not come across as a particularly self-aware storyteller. There are some moving moments of genuine insight, but they are dulled by so much extraneous detail that everything starts to feel arbitrary. A more focused narrative, with half as many patients whose stories carried twice as much weight, would have made for a much stronger book. Despite a promising premise and a few fascinating stories, the book is ill-focused and overlong.Agent: Kirsten Manges/Kirsten Manges Literary